Sunday, July 18, 2010

With Change Comes... Anger?

It's July 18, and I've sold more than 5000 ebooks on Kindle this month. At the current royalty rates, that's over nine thousand dollars.

I would think that this constitutes success, by almost anyone's definition.

And yet, around the internet, in person, and even in the comments section of my own blog, I see a lot of animosity toward the ebook future in general, and me in particular.

How odd.

Some people seem to be really pissed off that I'm making decent money without relying on the gatekeepers. They call me an outlier, an anomaly, an exception. They deride self-published ebooks, low ebook prices, and anything not endorsed by Big NY Publishing. They don't like what's happening with Kindle, and don't like me talking about how much money I'm making, and are bemoaning a future where other authors will do what I'm doing.

Change is always painful. It's difficult, and frightening. When a technology changes an industry, especially a media industry, a lot of people get hurt by it. Jobs are lost. Stores close. The carefully maintained balance of power shifts. None of this is easy, and it often isn't pleasant.

But the people who seem most vocal about this upcoming change are the ones who stand to be helped by it the most. The authors.

Granted, a bunch of anonymous agents or editors may be the ones posting their vitriol on my blog, but from the sounds of the comments it appears authors are the ones most disturbed by the current publishing climate.

Unless I'm reading this wrong, a lot of authors believe that the only worthwhile writing is the writing that has earned the stamp of approval by a NY Publishing House. If an author is selling a lot of self-published ebooks, that is only because the gullible public doesn't know any better. Soon, a flood of pure shit will saturate the ebook market (some say this has already happened) making it impossible for "real" authors to sell their books.

Sorry. You're wrong.

Not only will readers be able to separate the wheat from the chaff (as they've been doing since the first books were ever sold), but a free-for-all in the marketplace will allow, for the very first time, some writers to find success who never would have found it through the old, severely flawed system. New voices will stand out. New bestsellers will be born, not because of a giant marketing push, but because of pure word-of-mouth. An actual, honest to goodness renaissance is upon us.

Readers will be able to determine quality on their own. And if you hold so much disdain for the opinions of the unwashed masses, it makes me wonder whom you're actually writing for.

Me? I write escapist fiction for a wide audience. I do my best to appeal to the broadest spectrum I can. And trust me, that's a lot harder to do than it is to cater to your own personal muse without caring a whit about the reader's needs.

"But Joe," you may say. "If you leave it up to the readers to decide what is good, you're letting the inmates run the asylum. The only groups that can dictate what should and shouldn't be read are the professionals."

I think that's silly, but I'll play devil's advocate.

One persistent myth is: the only reason I'm selling original novels as ebooks is because a NY publisher wouldn't want them. This extends beyond my own work, to all self-pubbed authors. We're a bunch of hacks that the true professionals--the gatekeepers--would never touch.

Guess what? My agent just sold eleven of my self-published ebooks to a major audiobook publisher.

I believe this is a first.

I also believe it won't be the last time this happens.

I've had a lot of discussions lately about the future of the publishing industry. Will ebooks replace print? Will bookstores go out of business? Will agents still be necessary? Will NY publishing eventually collapse?

This is all very interesting, but only to people directly involved in the publishing world.

The readers don't care. They just want their books.

The writers shouldn't care, either. No matter what happens, writers will still be able to sell books to readers.

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

And nothing at all to get angry about.

In fact, instead of being angry, you should be celebrating.

I am.

303 comments:

«Oldest   ‹Older   201 – 303 of 303
Zoe Winters said...

@Moses

I think it's interesting how so many people are still wanting to say ebooks are such a small piece of the pie, but no one is disputing that. But it keeps getting bigger. It's growing fast. It seems like a lot of people are in denial about how big of a deal ebooks are going to be. I really think we've got about 5 more years tops before they overtake print as far as units moved goes.

Regarding self-published books... when people take ALL self pubbed books and compare them against ALL trad pubbed books for units moved... there will be a discrepancy. BUT, what is being ignored is... in digital, it's a level playing field. There just isn't a big difference in being on Kindle independently and being on Kindle through your publisher. I and many other indies are outselling a lot of trad pubbed authors.

But as soon as we say that, the goal posts shift again to: "Yes, but you're selling cheap and people will buy crap if it's cheap."

So it really doesn't matter what position we argue. There are many who desperately want to make indie work inferior by definition.

So they'll argue numbers with you, then when you show indies pulling great numbers, they'll argue price. The goal posts will always shift so people can have the outcome they want.

Anonymous said...

"But the people who seem most vocal about this upcoming change are the ones who stand to be helped by it the most. The authors."

This is one of the things that truly amazes me, too. Someone may have said it already in the 200+ comments, but I think it might be Stockholm syndrome! :-D

Anonymous said...

Joe meets that standard all by himself.

You guys seem to forget that Joe isn't one of you. Joe is a traditionall published writer who has made hundreds of thousands of dollars in advances from major NY publishers. He has a following, and he's in a different league than anyone here.

when people take ALL self pubbed books and compare them against ALL trad pubbed books for units moved... there will be a discrepancy. BUT, what is being ignored is... in digital, it's a level playing field.

No, it's not a level playing field because published writers aren't able to price their books at $.99. The reason why we have the upper hand now is because of pricing, and I'm surprised you don't see that. You don't actually believe that we'd be outselling published writers if all ebooks were priced the same, do you?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I hope it stays this way because I like the checks from Amazon as much as everyone else, but I don't think it will. We're working in "Gold Rush" times right now, and unfortunately it won't last. The industry will regulate itself and things will settle down, changed I'm sure, but probably not as friendly to amateurs like us.

I wish the traditional publishers were sitting around all day with their heads in the sand hoping ebooks will go away, but they're not. There are a lot of very smart people in publishing, and they're making a ton of money off ebooks. You can bet they're working feverishly to find a way to squeeze it for every penny they can. The dust is far from settled.

Right now, I'm trying to get as many books out on the market as I can, and pull in as much money as I can because I honestly don't believe it'll last. We have the upper hand at the moment, we can make as much money as we want if we're willing to work hard and promote and get the books out there. The smart people are taking advantage of this before it all ends. The ones who are fighting it are looking too far into the future and should be pulling in as much money as they can now while the getting is good.

Joe Konrath said...

I talked about it being Stockholm Syndrome a few months ago. It fits. People beholden to the group that has had the power over them.

Look, I've met a lot of very cool and very smart people in the publishing biz. But at the end of the day, they punch the clock. It's a 9 to 5 job (or 8 to 6, plus weekends) but it is just a job.

Writing is my dream. My passion. I never punch the clock. I think about it all the time, and can't get away from it.

So we have a bunch of people with jobs overseeing a bunch of people with dreams. Not an ideal situation.

The problem is that the dream, for many writers, has gotten mixed up with how the dream has been traditionally followed--by using gatekeepers.

If gatekeepers are no longer essential to the dream, they no longer are revered. And the true meaning of what they are is revealed: an industry completely fueled by artists.

Without publishers, there are still writers. Without writers, there are no publishers.

No artists=no industry.

The artists, and the industry, haven't figured this out yet, because the old ways are so ingrained. But they will.

Moses Siregar III said...

@Zoe and friends:

Yeah. My thing is, are enough people who are really trying to pull this off having success? I look at people like Joe, Zoe, Scott Nicholson, Karen McQuestion and some of the other names that have been mentioned above, and the answer is that at least some of them are.

Note that these are typically not people who:
-have no passion for it
-can't write
-do no promotion
-won't work hard
etc.

In other words, if you work at it and use your head, it doesn't seem unreasonable to think that you might have some success. Whether indies are 1% of the total market or not doesn't really matter if you're happy and making a decent enough amount of money to satisfy your goals.

If I do the indie thing, what concerns me, though, is that I don't see myself putting out works as often as some of you guys do. I'm writing a 125K word epic fantasy novel, and I can't pump those out to my standards every 6 months, maybe not even every 12 months unless I am writing full-time.

Ergo, if I go rogue, I might have to focus on putting out some novellas and short stories after my novel, to get some more items in the Kindle store.

Joe Konrath said...

You don't actually believe that we'd be outselling published writers if all ebooks were priced the same, do you?

Why do we have to?

Where is the precedent that says my sales will drop if James Patteron's ebooks were the same price as mine?

At $2.99, it's no longer either/or. It's both.

As this industry grows, and prices come down, more people will be buying more books. Instead of buying a $28.95 hardcover, they can buy ten $2.99 ebooks.

This is not a zero sum game. There is no competition among authors.

If all ebooks were cheap, it might be harder to get a place on the bestseller lists, but I'm not sure I'd be selling fewer ebooks. I might even be selling more, because those who pays $12.99 for a Patterson ebook now don't have to, freeing up their spending budget for new titles.

There's also an argument that money isn't the concern, time is. People don't have enough time to read 10 ebooks a month.

At a low price, people will hoard. We all have a TBR pile, and a buffet mentality.

I don't see a universal price drop being anything but good for everyone, except the publishers.

Vincent Zandri said...

Damn straight we're celebrating. My new pub is a traditionally based indy, but close f'n enough. It's all still based on the new electronic model, which readers are starving for. Since I;ve embraced it, my newest thriller, The Remains has been on three amazon kindle bestseller lists for three weeks straight, right besides several of your books Joe:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/digital-text/157312011/ref=pd_ts_pg_2?ie=UTF8&pg=2
Rock on!!!
Vin

Zoe Winters said...

@Anon it's all about platform. I don't yet have the kind of platform where I can compete on price cause people don't know who the hell I am. If I had the kind of platform of some of my favorite authors, then YES I could compete on price. It's about visibility and name recognition. Not quality of the work. Name recognition and strong fan base allows authors to have their books priced higher and still move enough units.

wannabuy said...

More on the e-book/e-reader sales.
Tripling of Kindle sales since the price reduction.

Not a surprise. The 'rule of thumb' is that at 50% of the price there is 10X the market. I've always thought Amazon needed a $99 Kindle to accelerate momentum. It looks like $109 (refurb) is close enough. ;)

WSJ:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703720504575377472723652734.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

A little more confrontational report:
Amazon.com E-Reader Sales Leap
http://247wallst.com/2010/07/19/amazon-com-e-reader-sales-leap-the-death-of-print/

Per the WSJ article.

100 Hardcover per 180 e-books!

I still think tablets and smartphones will be the 'gateway.' :) (Not competition, but a stepping stone to e-readers.)

Neil

Moses Siregar III said...

You guys seem to forget that Joe isn't one of you. Joe is a traditionall published writer who has made hundreds of thousands of dollars in advances from major NY publishers. He has a following, and he's in a different league than anyone here.

No doubt about it, but there are also successful enough independent authors who don't have any traditional publishing background, and as Joe has pointed out before, some of the indies doing well in the Kindle store don't even have websites or blogs.

The indie thing is a pretty scary proposition, though. There's the possibility that you sell books by the handful each month, but there's also the possibility that your book gets around and does all right.

I'm working on my marketing well ahead of time (I'm looking to release it next May). If I didn't think I could give the book some decent initial push with my own promotion, I definitely wouldn't want to try the indie route. I would just hope to get the word out enough so that the book has a fighting chance, and then it's up to the book gods to decide.

Zoe Winters said...

Joe has also been in this for about a decade with a strong backlist. He may just be joining the indie side of things, and I'm NOT saying his success is "because" he has previously had a NY pub. But a big part of it is that he has such a big backlist. You can fuel a lot of momentum with a backlist the size of Joe's.

A big part of Karen McQuestion being so successful is her backlist. She's got 6 or 7 books out, I believe. Not as many books as Joe, but enough to help each book feed the other ones.

I got a huge surge in sales when I released my other two novellas in my novella anthology. I expect another surge when I get something else out there.

This is still a very new phenomenon, but some people are coming in with a slight advantage, such as a backlist.

Selena Kitt is selling great too. She's got a big backlist.

Platform is still built one reader at a time and one book at a time. But it's an organic and cumulative thing IMO.

Few people start out 'at the top'. We all scrape and claw to get where we're going one reader at a time.

Zoe Winters said...

Oh, and the first sentence was two separate thoughts. Joe has been in this about a decade. AND also he has a big backlist. Not that he's had this backlist for a decade, LOL.

A.R. Williams said...

anon @4:39 PM said:

"I wish the traditional publishers were sitting around all day with their heads in the sand hoping ebooks will go away, but they're not. There are a lot of very smart people in publishing, and they're making a ton of money off ebooks. You can bet they're working feverishly to find a way to squeeze it for every penny they can. The dust is far from settled."

I agree with you on this. One thing self-pubbed authors lack is money.

The traditional powers have enough resources to eventually change the way the game is played. They'll have the ability influence aspects of the game or wave incentives in front of authors to keep them coming back.

A lot of writers are sitting on their hands waiting to see what everyone else is going to do--thus they lose the initiative and let other people make the rules.

Whoever has the money has power. Who has the power makes the rules. Who ever makes the rules tilt them in their favor.

The industry will find a new balance. Publishers aren't going to disappear. They may be a little thinner, but they'll still be there.

Henry Baum said...

This is weird. I'm glad you've had a change of heart, but not so long ago, you were making the exact same pronouncements about how self-publishers were no-talents - until they got a stamp from a "professional." (I argued with you about this on Backword Books, if you remember).

See: "Unless I'm reading this wrong, a lot of authors believe that the only worthwhile writing is the writing that has earned the stamp of approval by a NY Publishing House."

vs.

"Delusion is writing and believing you’ll be able to succeed without having paid your dues or learning the industry. Delusional writers take short cuts, like self-publishing, yet persist in believing their work is indeed good enough for worldwide acclaim and big money even though industry professionals (editors, agents, publishers) haven’t agreed."

It's great that you've changed your tune, but I'm sure you can understand the other side of the fence.

Thomas Brookside said...

I hate to say it, because I loved The Road, but Cormac McCarthy doesn't know what he's talking about.

If his statement is true, then the plays were never good in the first place, and the entire concept of "good" has always been a lie.

But his statement isn't true, for the pretty simple reason that he doesn't seem to know a lot about the history of the Greek stage. Athens alone had two contests a year where three playwrights produced three plays each. That's 18 plays a year, and they kept that up for a couple of centuries. And that's one city, leaving out of consideration the Greek [and later Roman] imitators of Athens. There were many, many more than 2500 plays [his number] and everyone still knew that Euripides was good.

People make an effort to preserve the best. That's why we still have the work of Aeschylus and not the works of every two-bit Roman tragedian. There's no reason to believe that books won't continue to be winnowed out in the same way, even in the digital era.

evilphilip said...

@ evilphilip:

Yes.


@ Laura

That is great news. I checked out your website and it looks like you have some great product.

It also says on your website that many of your books are "Coming Soon" in electronic format. Are you publishing your back list yourself or is your publisher going to be bringing those to market?

What rate are you getting on eBook sales?

Gordon Ryan said...

Mary Anne said: It reminds me of politics. The politicians keep forgetting that the power belongs to the people, not the government.


After many years in municipal administration, Mary Anne, I learned that power belong to those who wield it. The Tea Party is trying to bring the government to heel. The indie author is trying to bring the publishing industry to heel. The rest of the "power belongs to the people" is a facade. Power must be exercised to be effective. For whatever decisions Joe has made, he is fully exercising his power to either ignore traditional publishing, or forcing them to deal on his terms. That's a good use of power IMO.

Joe Konrath said...

I still believe the majority of self pubbed stuff is crap.

But now authors can be vetted by the public, and can do so for free. Hence, we don't need the gatekeeper's seal of approval anymore.

My attitude hasn't changed. Only the industry has changed.

I consider myself a pretty good driver. But not to the point where I think I can jump into a Nascar race and do really well. It would be silly to think that way. Just like it's silly to think the ability to finish a 60,000 word novel (which is impressive) automatically means the novel has merit (it may not.)

I used to agree with believe self-publishing was a bad idea. I've since changed my mind, and believe it is a viable, even preferable, alternative to traditional publishing. But I came to that conclusion fairly, based on personal experience. Not based on guesses, or hearsay, or a misunderstanding of how the publishing industry works. I've got an agent. I've sold a bunch of stories and novels. For me to choose going indie is an actual choice, not my only option because I couldn't sell traditionally.

I'm not trying to make this "us vs. them." I'm sharing some hard-earned wisdom that I learned the hard way.

Being a good writer isn't easy, and requires a learning curve, and that self-publishing makes it too easy for anyone to jump into the ring without fully learning the ropes first.

It's important to learn the ropes. It also takes a lot of time, and a lot of failure. Self-pubbing takes time and failure out of the equation, which results in a lot of sub-par work being available. Work that never would have gotten past agents or editors.

That's okay, because it doesn't carry the same expense and risk that vanity press used to. A writer can get validated by sales and readers.

But validation is still needed.

wannabuy said...

Whoever has the money has power.
After what happened to the music industry, I no longer agree with that statement. Money can protect money until the consumer feels abused.

Right now the money is Apple, Amazon, and B&N fighting each other with Google about to make a grand entrance. Amazon has Random House and some Indie authors. Everyone I know who reads on Ipad utilizes the Kindle application...

The other side of e-books, as Joe notes, is that Indie authors do not have the expenses of the large publishing houses.

There is too much discussion on sub-par work in this blog's comments. While poor work annoying, thanks to search, book blogs, and peer-review it is trivially easy to find excellent Indie author e-books. I do not care what fraction is poorly written. It is too easy to find the well written.

As Moses notes above, there is no doubt we are already seeing very successful Indie authors. As Joe phrased it, "Validation."

Imaging what would happen with a $99 Kindle... :) The true 'tipping point' happens when e-books hit 20% market share. Technology goes to utility...

Neil

jtplayer said...

Re: "I still believe the majority of self pubbed stuff is crap."


I guess since it's Joe's house he gets to say that ;-)


-jt

Zoe Winters said...

No one has disputed that the majority of Self-published work is crap. It would be silly to say anything differently. But saying a lot of it is bad and saying all of it is bad, or just "assuming" indies "must" suck, is a totally different matter

*I* say the majority of self-published work sucks. That's a pretty obvious conclusion. But I don't assume I know which work does and doesn't suck before I've tried it out.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Recently, Seth Godin spoke to an audience of book publishers. He gave them the good news and the bad news. He told them that book publishers do five basic things. And all but one of them is going bye-bye.

The marketing advantage is going away because there is just too much noise out there. Too many people spamming readers.

The bookstore shelf-space advantage is going away as more and more people buy ebooks and even print books online. Amazon has unlimited shelf space. And anybody can get their books on it.

The shipping/distribution advantage is going away because---well, I think it's obvious.

The deep pockets advantage is going away because you don't need much money to self-publish.

So, what's left? Their ability to attract big name authors. And what about their knack for picking bestsellers? Not so much.

Just be glad you're not a big NY publisher (or a record company).

Listen to Seth Godin's speech.

Who is Seth Godin? If you don't know, you really need to find out. And read his blog every day.

Moses Siregar III said...

evilphilip said:

@ Laura

That is great news. I checked out your website and it looks like you have some great product.


Laura's one of the coolest people I've met in the publishing world, and book 2 in her DAW urban fantasy series comes out August 3rd with one of the best covers I've ever seen. She also has a great collection of columns and articles on the weird life of the professional fiction writer, with her unusual combination of good humor and brutal honesty. That book is called Rejection, Romance, and Royalties, and I said more about it in an Amazon review. I recommend it to everyone here.

Reading RRR made me less sure I wanted to wade into the mine laden field of traditional publishing, somewhat ironically.

Moses Siregar III said...

Ah, I found the book cover on her site here, and you can also access her excellent writer's resource page there.

Anonymous said...

Joe, what you are saying about collecting -- my "to be read" pile was never big. With a kindle, it's probably at its biggest -- a dozen books, many of them low-priced.

But I know very personally the behavior of which you speak because I have an obsession with digital modeling. I have a $20,000+ library of models and textures purchased over 5 years (before this expensive addiction, I'd buy about $2k a year in books) and I buy a lot of stuff because it is at the lowest price it likely will be for a year and I just MIGHT want to render it in that year. So, my TBR pile is my to be rendered pile and it is enormous! And many of these are $12 models, not $1.99 (although many of them are $1.99, too :-).

Anyway, just anecdotal support for your statement. Now...to find a Renderers Anonymous group.

Ed said...

There is too much discussion on sub-par work in this blog's comments. While poor work annoying, thanks to search, book blogs, and peer-review it is trivially easy to find excellent Indie author e-books. I do not care what fraction is poorly written. It is too easy to find the well written.

Yes!

There's that hand wringing in every field. Photographers used to worry about cheap digital cameras (and before that, autofocus, autoexposure, safety film...) making everyone a photographer. Plumbers worried about Home Depot making everyone a plumber. Dentists worry about a vaccine making cavities a thing of the past. And writers now worry about a flood of self-published crap killing their profession.

And it happens most to wannabes -- me included. It's easier to sit on the fence that way; to wait and see and thus be absolved from making a potentially bad decision. Meanwhile Joe, Zoe, Selena, and others, jump in and do it.

There's supposedly 75 million or so active websites in the world. Yet we all found this one. And I'm pretty sure we didn't read through 74,999,999 others to find it.

jtplayer said...

Ed - I think your analogies are a little weak.

And as far as a flood of self published writing killing the profession, I really don't see that happening.

The "profession" will always be around, as long as there are people willing to pursue it. And I do believe the market will weed out the bad material, to a point.

What will change, IMO, is the whole experience of purchasing and enjoying books. Just like digital downloads have forever changed the music business.

I've often lamented the loss of retailers like Tower Records and Virgin Megastores and Music Plus.

Here in So. Cal. there's virtually nowhere left to go to peruse a large inventory of music. And Best Buy and Walmart and the like have drastically slimmed down their music departments.

What we have instead is a dumbing down of consumer's expectations. It's all about the hot new .99 single, the flavor of the month. People have come to expect music to be cheap, immediately available, and ultimately completely disposable.

For me, this is not a good change.

So what happens when bookstores become a thing of the past? When the printed format is deemed obsolete, and ereaders become the norm?

Bring it on, some of you may say. The march of progress and all that. Can't stay stuck in the past man, that's so yesterday.

But what if I don't want to read my books on an electronic device? What if I don't want to wade through piles of self pubbed nonsense to find the gems, online at that?

I know we're a long way off from that day, but it seems like lots of folks here can't wait for it to come.

Joe Konrath said...

What if I don't want to wade through piles of self pubbed nonsense to find the gems, online at that?

Then you can do what you're doing now; wade through shelves and shelves of books to find the gem.

Except doing it online is faster and easier and cheaper.

I loved Tower Records. Now I love iTunes, and have more music than I ever had before, all conveniently located and organized on my computer. I can play songs while walking or in my car without taking a handful of CDs with me. I can change songs, and albums, instantly. I can send songs from my computer to any room in the house. I can also find rare, out of print stuff that would have cost me hundreds of dollars to special order or find on eBay.

It's a moot point, because it will happen whether you want it to or not. But don't equate nostalgia with better. The Kindle is a far superior device for reading than paper is, and I say this owning more than 5000 print books. Just like the iPod, it (or something like it) will sweep the world.

jtplayer said...

Re: "The Kindle is a far superior device for reading than paper is"

C'mon Joe, that's completely subjective. For you it may be, but for me, I like it the other way.

And I too have an ipod, several of them in fact, and I've bought my share of downloads. And I fully embraced CD's when they came out.

But at least with CD's my "shopping experience", so to speak, didn't change.

But not everything is better digitally, and not every experience is better online.

Sometimes old school is the best way, IMO.

Just look at the resurgence of vinyl records for proof of that.

And lest you think I equate nostalgia with better, I don't. I just know what I like, and I'd venture to say many feel the same way.

-jt

Anonymous said...

Not long ago Garrison Keillor had a great essay about what's going on right now in publishing. He basically said that he thinks hardcopy books -- and the publishers that bring them out -- are about to sail off into history. I think he's right. It was an excellent essay. And the most interesting thing about it? The entire publishing industry, from places like The Rumpus to the academic literary journals to Bookslut and other "name" lit bloggers, all just totally attacked Garrison for that. They gave him venom, they hated on him, ostensibly just because his opinion was opposite theirs (these are the same people who like to think of themselves as champions of free speech, incidentally). But they hated this idea of Garrison's and did not even wish to discuss it. I thought that was the most significant thing.

However. How come Garrison (or nobody like him) is talking about JA's success? How come no other midlist authors, or anyone else, are doing the same thing or even trying it? And is it wise to burn bridges with the publishing industry, JA? Are you really truly convinced that they're over with, that you'll never have to go back?

I'm pretty convinced of it myself, but I also see this time as confusing. If you're making as much as you say, you are the story of the year. But can anyone else replicate it? The people who buy thrillers on Kindle for $2.99 and read one or two of them a week are not going to be the same target readership for literary fiction, for instance.

Anonymous said...

This applies to filmmakers as well.

Creative control. YES!

C. Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

But his statement isn't true, for the pretty simple reason that he doesn't seem to know a lot about the history of the Greek stage.

I was thinking this exact same thing when I read that statement. Anyone with any Greek history under their belt knows that there were thousands upon thousands of Greek plays, and most of them were destroyed when Alexandria burned, and the Crusaders polished off the rest. One of my old professors at SJSU used to tear up about it-- she was always talking about all the fantastic Greek literature that we lost; many of the plays, we know about, because we have references to the plays in other texts, but the plays themselves have not survived. For example, we know that Euripides had written at least ninety-five plays, but less than 20 survived. This is true for many of the Greek and Roman philosophers as well.

Unfortunately, mankind is very good at destroying some of it's most beautiful things, and I doubt that's going to change any time soon.

Anyway, I'm happy that the digital era has made it easier to preserve our works, and I, like many others, think that the cream will rise to the top, and that buyers will eventually be the ones to decide what becomes a bestseller.

Joe Konrath said...

C'mon Joe, that's completely subjective.

No more subjective than the iPod being a superior device for listening to music.

Kindle's e-ink is just as easy on the eyes as paper--completely passive no eye strain or flicker.

You can change font size, store 1500 books on one device, shop for new books while never leaving your home, have it read aloud to you, click on a word and get the dictionary definition.

There isn't a single thing better about paper, except the tactile experience is different, and I say that's nostalgia. Search my blog for "journey value" and "destination value" to see the post I wrote about that.

If we grew up reading on Kindle, there wouldn't be a single reason to invent paper books. We like paper because we're used to paper. I don't think that's subjective.

BTW, I love my Kindle so much, I'm getting books I already own in paper on Kindle, just like I did when I replaced my vinyl with CDs, and later mp3s.

The story isn't on the page, either paper or digital. The story is in the reader's head. And the Kindle gets it in your head in a much better way.

Joe Konrath said...

And is it wise to burn bridges with the publishing industry, JA?

I'll be around in ten years. They won't. At least, not in the form they currently occupy.

If you're making as much as you say, you are the story of the year.

I'm just a guy who looked at the industry and found a way to make money. That's only a story if people care. Right now, the industry that should care about what I'm doing is sticking its head in the sand like cartoon ostrich trying to hide.

Garrison's essay lamented the loss of the good ole days, and pretty much said those were better. That's why people jumped on him, for being so completely out of touch with reality that he refused to see the benefit of this new technology, and even badmouthed it.

Guess what? Typewriters are NOT better than computers, and anyone who thinks they are is stuck in the past and foolish.

Ellen Fisher said...

"What we have instead is a dumbing down of consumer's expectations. It's all about the hot new .99 single, the flavor of the month. People have come to expect music to be cheap, immediately available, and ultimately completely disposable."

I don't agree. In physical stores, this is indeed what's happening. But online, you can still get all sorts of music. I looked at Amazon and saw that Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra returned 1295 results. A search on Alfred Schnittke (one of my favorite composers) calls up 1700 results. Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, 35 hits. Of course all the hits may not be for the item requested, due to the way Amazon does searches, but the point is that these items are all available in multiple copies (and quite a few of them are available in MP3 format). These are just a few of my faves that aren't "flavor of the month" type of things, still available online.

I think publishing will continue to be the same-- you'll see a few bestsellers in stores, but the vast majority of books, both popular and obscure, will remain available online.

lots of questions said...

Thanks for the discussion, Joe. I asked you some questions the other day about POD and publishing on the web and they got lost in this very busy thread. I just tried reposting and it looks like my repost didn't make it, so I'll try again:

I'm trying both. Don't have any numbers yet to report, so I can't comment.

So would you say that POD paperbacks are no longer in the realm of the vanity press and amateur author? I had been thinking that there was somehow a difference between self-publishing a Kindle book like you've been doing here quite successfully, and putting out a novel on iUniverse or something like that. (I've yet to see a good literary novel on iUniverse and as far as I know most only sell a handful of copies and none make their authors decent money or NY publishing level money at all.)

I thought in your "Newbie's Guide" book (the PDF) you recommended against iUniverse and Lulu and companies like that. Has this changed? I guess I'm trying to figure out where POD fits into the equation. Is it part of the gold we're finding in this revolution, or is it fool's gold?

I've been doing that on my website for years.

Has it helped you? Does it help give you visibility or find other deals or contacts? I think it's pretty interesting that all of your work is apparently free to download. Would you suggest that an author who hasn't gotten the big NY deal yet but who is a good writer try posting his novel(s) online, and also make Kindle versions available, without even bothering with NY?

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Joe, doesn't it bother you that you don't know what page you're on with the kindle? It drives me nuts. I don't want to know the percent--for some reason I want to know the page. If it showed the equivalent of a book page, I'd like mine a lot better. When I pick up a book and open the page, I find it very grounding--that knowing where I am. I've actually started reading more paper books recently instead of on the kindle because I feel "at sea" in the book. This is where I think I might like the ipad better. The whole page view thing.

BUT I totally agree that if we'd grown up with kindles I wouldn't care--I wouldn't know what a physical book page was. But since I grew up with that metric, for me, the kindle is a lesser experience.

Joe Konrath said...

I thought in your "Newbie's Guide" book (the PDF) you recommended against iUniverse and Lulu and companies like that. Has this changed?

I was against POD for several reasons. First, because it produced an overpriced, poorly edited and formatted product that couldn't be returned by bookstores. Second, because once you have an ISBN, sales numbers follow you, and you'd never get a decent deal from a real publisher with the poor sales POD was likely to foster.

Now, I simply don't care about my Bookscan numbers, because I no longer need to impress print publishers. I'm using Createspace to list my books on Amazon. I'm doing this so my fans who haven't switched to ebooks yet can get my self-published material.

Is POD a viable way for a new author to make money? Hell no. But if you don't plan to ever sell to NY, and you've got an ebook doing well on Kindle, it can't hurt to use Createspace.

Has it helped you? Does it help give you visibility or find other deals or contacts?

Dunno. It's intangible and impossible to track.

Would you suggest that an author who hasn't gotten the big NY deal yet but who is a good writer try posting his novel(s) online, and also make Kindle versions available, without even bothering with NY?

I can't give advice on this. Everyone needs to set their own goals and follow their own paths. All mileage varies.

jtplayer said...

Ellen - it's not a matter of being able to find the music, you can do that all day long. The Internet has made the options near limitless.

But for me, cyber shopping will never equate to the "nostalgic" pleasure I got from the old school.

And ebooks will never be in the same league as printed books, IMO.

Different strokes folks.

But the driver here, in my mind, is clearly the financial potential and accessibility for independent writers.

And there's nothing wrong with that.

But don't try to sell me on the idea that it's all sooo much better in the long run. That I'm not buyin'.

If some of you were told the stone tablet and chisel was the only way to get published, you'd be pushing that as a viable option as well, and telling me how much better it is.

And that my friend, is a weak analogy, but appropriate nonetheless, IMO.

-jt

Ellen Fisher said...

I see, jt. I like browsing my local B&N too. But it's clear that eventually, the selection will be a lot more limited, just like the CD "selection" in Best Buy. It's one of those things that can't be held back, unfortunately. The change is coming, and from my perspective as a writer, it makes sense to go along with the change. YMMV, of course.

jtplayer said...

Re: "Joe, doesn't it bother you that you don't know what page you're on with the kindle?"

Huh? The Kindle doesn't show page numbers?

I had no idea. I've only recently been able to hold one in my hands, as Target has started selling them in stores. Although for some reason they never seem to have a working demo. on the floor.

I've just never noticed this in my explorations of the Kindle or the Nook or any other ereaders.

Page numbers are cool.

Percentages are not.

Dead tree books rock.

-jt

jtplayer said...

Re: "The change is coming, and from my perspective as a writer, it makes sense to go along with the change."

I hear you Ellen, which is exactly why I'm watching all of this closely and strongly considering this path for my finished novel.

Although if I do, I'll feel like a total hypocite and double speaker.

Oh well, whatever works, right?

Decisions, decisions.

-jt

Anna J said...

Joe, the list you ticked off of your history with print publishing could be my own. My contemporary women's fiction and mainstream romance books win awards and prizes, but my print publisher was more interested in vampires and werewolves and other paranormal stuff. They're all hoping to land the next "Twilight."

I just hope I'm able to make my books as relevant in the e-book world as yours have become, Joe. Thanks for leading the way.

And to add a P.S....I just read on the Drudge Report that e-books on Amazon have now passed hardcover books in sales. Surprise, surprise.

www.annajeffrey.com
www.dixiecashauthor.com

Zoe Winters said...

@Joe

I’m the same way regarding kindle books and paper. If I really love a book I want it on paper for my shelf so I can own it in a tangible separate form. But I want to experience it in E. Sometimes I’m in the mood to read paper and turn pages, but most of the time I prefer my Kindle. If reading was magic before, it’s even more magic now with the ability to read nearly anything instantly with just the click of a button.

@lots of questions

I think when you get on Kindle and you start building a fan base, you start to see requests for a print copy from A. those who love it and B. those who hear about it but don’t read ebooks. From what I hear most indie authors’ print sales are a fraction of digital sales, but if you go through Lightning Source or Create Space (NOT iUniverse or Authorhouse etc), then you can make a lot more per copy than you would off a 99 cent or 1.99 ebook. So it’s another income stream and another format and way to get your work out there to reach another audience.

I can’t say what my experience is yet because I’m waiting on my proof copy for my print book from LSI. I think if you’re doing well in E though, there isn’t much reason “not” to go ahead and do POD unless you’re concerned about an ISBN being attached to your book and a publisher no longer wanting you.

@Anon I LOVE the % thing on Kindle. Hahaha. Because I think it’s funny to say: “I’m on page 33%” Oddly, where you feel adrift, I feel like I have a better sense of how much more story I have left to read.

Joe Konrath said...

I don't want to know the percent--for some reason I want to know the page.

I think knowing the location is just as good. Page numbers become irrelevant when you can adjust font size. Think about it.

author Scott Nicholson said...

I've become increasingly less interested in the "publishing industry," because in t he publishing industry, the reader is the last (and seemingly almost insignificant) stop on a long train ride that starts with some engineer blowing a real loud whistle.

Today, my READER is my boss!

I am so happy I could scream but it can't get past the giggles. I am close to the old "Konrath standard" of paying my mortgage with my book income, something that never happened while I was a "real author."

Jeff Bezos, I love you (but don't tell my wife).

Scott Nicholson
http://www.hauntedcomputer.com

C. Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

"Is POD a viable way for a new author to make money? Hell no. "

I don't disagree with Joe on much, but I do on this point. It absolutely IS possible for a new author to make money using POD-- without a doubt, absolutely, verifiably, you can.

But there are some rules:

1. Nonfiction does better, 90% of the time
2. You still need a web presence
3. You still need to promote your books

If you don't believe me, join the POD Newsgroup on Yahoo-- it's 2,000 members and counting, and most of them are making money selling with POD on LSI or CreateSpace. Aaron Shepard is a frequent contributor (the author of Aiming at Amazon).

Here's an example of some previous CreateSpace POD "bestsellers"

1. Project Future: Chad Emerson
2. Prenatal Yoga: Jennifer Wolfe
3. Wines of Enchantment: A Guide to Finding and Enjoying the Wines of New Mexico
4. Leashes and Lovers
5. HCG Weightloss Cure
6.American Apocalypse: The Beginning

Some of these show reviews that state there are editing problems, but they are still selling well regardless. Most of the bestsellers are non-fiction, but I'm sure there's some fiction winners out there, too.

If you can believe it, I even have a collegue who has sold a fair number of POETRY books on CreateSpace (I never would have believed it if she hadn't told me herself). She has a faithful online following, and her blog followers bought her poetry book.

Natasha Fondren said...

@Joe: "It's important to learn the ropes. It also takes a lot of time, and a lot of failure. Self-pubbing takes time and failure out of the equation, which results in a lot of sub-par work being available. Work that never would have gotten past agents or editors."

Pseudie writes in a small niche, so even though I've never been self-published, I've published everything I've ever finished. The beginning stuff SUCKS. I'd say... at least my first seven or eight or nine books suck, LOL.

However, I don't think I would have continued writing if not for the readers who read my sucky stuff. They made me realize I had a responsibility to my readers, and they inspired me to do better. That I had a paid internship, so to speak, was HUGE. I'm honestly not certain I would have made it through all that work of learning to write without those two things.

I really don't think it's a bad thing that people go out and self-publish their first book. In the end, they'll either do the things they need to do to get better or they won't. Not my business and I don't care. Kindle lets me sample, and I can decide for myself what to read.

Remember in the "olden" days? I've heard people say that editors would "grow" a writer... but now they don't have that luxury. I think self-publishing gives writers that chance again, to grow while doing. The more people trying to become writers, the more stories being published, the higher the cream will have to float, which will push the (not to sound pretentious) literary achievements of this age higher.

Crap serves a purpose.

Natasha Fondren said...

Though... I'd add the caveat that if one is publishing their first book or two or three, you might thank yourself later if you choose a pseudonym, LOL...

Joe Konrath said...

It absolutely IS possible for a new author to make money using POD-- without a doubt, absolutely, verifiably, you can.

Fiction, Christy. You keep forgetting I only speak for fiction.

I did a panel in NY with the Leashes and Lovers author. Very talented lady.

Moses Siregar III said...

The lack of page numbers isn't an issue with the Kindle, IMO. It tells you "locations," which are actually more specific than page numbers if you're looking for a certain passage, and it also tells you percentages.

The one thing that I think is a disadvantage with Kindle vs a regular book is how much faster and easier it is to move to different sections of a printed book. If I want to skip straight to the middle of chapter 14 in a printed book, it's fast. Glossary, prologue, whatever. Fast. Moving quickly through a kindle ebook is generally more of a hassle.

Still, I find the reading experience on a Kindle drastically better than a paper book, for the reasons Joe stated. The highlighting function is nice, too ("Look, Ma! No orange pen!"). Not everyone agrees, obviously.

michelle said...

I think knowing the location is just as good. Page numbers become irrelevant when you can adjust font size. Think about it.

I personally despise the percentage/location thing on Kindle and have no clue how to interpret it. I want page numbers and it's one of the reasons I got the Sony Reader When you increase the font the page count does *not* change so page numbers are still very relevant.

I wish there was a universal specification for ebooks that standardized page count. As a non-writer word counts are still hard for me to get my head around, though I'm getting better at it as it's the only way for me to really determine the length of an ebook.

This is why I get extremely frustrated with Kindle book details because they rarely indicate the length of a book by word count so I have no clue what I'm spending my money on. Sometimes if the book is in print it will be referenced, but not always. No word count=no sale for me.

Michelle
(just a reader)

C. Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

Fiction, Christy. You keep forgetting I only speak for fiction.

I still think that you can make money with POD fiction, (as long as your stuff isn't crap). I really do.

Care to place a wager?

If'n you start making shitloads of money on your (forthcoming) CreateSpace paperback editions, and your paperback versions sell AT LEAST as much as your Kindle versions, I wager that you will be forced to eat some crow pancakes and state it publicly on your blog.

Also, you will have to publicly admit that I'm the bestest.

If I'm wrong, and your paperback versions tank, then I will eat crow sandwiches and publicly announce that you are the new King of all media. Or I could announce that I believe in unicorns, or something embarassing. Your choice. I'm open to pretty much anything, as long as it doesn't involve clowns.

What do you think? I say we give it at least 90 days to let the EDC sales kick in.

Joe Konrath said...

What do you think? I say we give it at least 90 days to let the EDC sales kick in.

You're crazed. There's no way I'll match ebook sales with print. There's no way I'll get 10% of my ebook sales with print. I'm talking unit sales here, not profit. The least I can sell POD on Amazon for is $11.99, and that only earns me $1.25.

So I'm betting I'll sell at least ten ebooks for every print book. If I'm wrong, I'll admit you were right, and you can even guest post on my blog about being right.

If you're wrong, you buy me a bottle of whiskey.

C. Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

You're crazed. There's no way I'll match ebook sales with print. There's no way I'll get 10% of my ebook sales with print. I'm talking unit sales here, not profit.

You ARE SOOOO ON.

It's a deal, then.

You're right-- $11.99 is a high price point for a paperback, but you're Joe Konrath. 10% of your e-sales is nothing. And you haven't figured in the Amazon/Createspace "discount" that happens whenever CreateSpace has a monopoly on a title. Trust me on this one-- all your books will be discounted at least 20% within 30 days of publication; as soon as you link the Kindle editions you'll watch the sales go through the roof. I've seen it on my own books and you'll see it on yours. Of this, I'm sure. In 90 days, when EDC kicks in and the books are available at B&N.com, the discounting war will continue and sales will increase even more.

Your royalty will stay the same, too-- that's the great benefit of the CreateSpace/Amazon connection.

*gleefully rubs hands*

I'm going to get started on my guest post right now.

C. Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

Oh, and if I lose, I'll buy you a case. Glenlivet 15 year Single Malt, perhaps?

Joe Konrath said...

Oh, and if I lose, I'll buy you a case. Glenlivet 15 year Single Malt, perhaps?

I'd prefer a 21 year old Balvanie, matured in port casks.

It's going to take me until the end of the summer to get all of my books up, though THE LIST should go live within a week.

Thomas Brookside said...

Joe,

If you put up CreateSpace versions of all of your kindle books, I think you'd sell 10% of your total ebook units through POD.

So you may lose that bet.

What happens is that the kindle version sells so many units that it turns up in the bestseller list for that genre on the BOOKS side instead of just on the Kindle Store side. And browsers see it, think "That sounds like a fun book," and click through. If they don't own a kindle, they then say, Drat!" But that big Other Editions box is right there, so if there's a paperback version a certain % of them will click through to that edition.

In YOUR case, your sales are so much better than mine that you will probably see this effect in spades. You're all over the genre bestseller lists, and the Amazon customer base shops that way. It's like co-op or whatever you tradpub folks call it.

Subject change:

JT:

A lot of what you keep talking about, both with regard to music and books, relates to the shopping experience and not the experience of the medium itself. Maybe you would do better with the Nook - supposedly B&N wants people to bring their Nooks to the store to "browse" using in-store technology.

Aimee Dearmon said...

I am so happy for you Joe! And, your story gives me hope.

I've re-worked and re-vamped and edited and had others help me edit and I still get the same rejections. "Good story. Hope you find someone who'll give it the attention it deserves," and "the historical facts are excellent, keep trying," or "Great work, but I'm not sure of it's commercial value." It's a story like you say yours is. It doesn't fit into their niche, but I am sure some readers would like.

And, most of the people in my writer's group frown upon self-publishing and e-books. I too, am amazed.

I'll keep an eye on your blog. As I said, you give me hope, and a few ideas.

dafaolta said...

Congrats on both the audiobook sale and the ebook sales. It's sad that people can't see someone else's good news without being threatened by it. I would have thought that the fact that you were forgoing the NY establishment would lead them to see that you were, in essence, 'freeing up' a spot they could potentially take. Guess not.

I've been reading ebooks since I bought my first from what is now eReader (was then PalmReader)in 2002. I have 410 books on that bookshelf & 484 on the Fictionwise eReader shelf. I have both their eReaders on my iPod Touch.

I recognize that this makes me unusual, in terms of early acceptance of ebooks, but the ability to carry dozens to hundreds of books with me at all times was a big win for me. I absolutely love ebooks for the fact that I don't have to find room for them on my shelves or in my bag as I go around.

Your statistics have been a source of inspiration to me, because I am intending to self-publish, hopefully within the year. I know that I won't approach your sales if I don't do the ground work the way you do.

I suspect that the work they'd have to do to reach your level of success is most of the problem for the writers who are sniping at you. Can't be sure about the others, but it sure sounds like sour grapes all the way around.

Zoe Winters said...

@C. Pinheiro and Joe

I'm disappointed there will be no clowns involved in this.

jtplayer said...

Thomas - I do love the physical experience of browsing and purchasing books and music.

A few weeks ago I was at B&N browsing books and I was really enjoying the music being played. I asked the clerk who it was and she said "Band of Horses".

I'd never heard of them, so I checked out their latest disc (the one they were spinning) at the listening station. Instant love man. I bought the disc, along with a new book by an unknown author, and within a week I'd bought the band's other two discs.

Now I used to have that kind of experience all the time at Tower Records and Virgin. Even Borders used to have a great selection of featured artists displayed at the listening stations, and I got turned on to many new artists that way.

For my money, the online digital shopping experience (a la itunes) will never compare. Period. And lest you think I'm a purist, I've purchased over 800 songs on itunes since I bought my first ipod back in 2005.

I love books. I mean the dead tree variety. Btw, I find that whole "dead tree" thing lame. Like all of a sudden it's not hip or cool or, dare I say, environmentally friendly to like printed books.

So as I said, I love books. I love browsing for them, lining them up on my shelf and perusing my next reading choice, holding them, fanning through the pages, everything about them.

Ebooks will never compare. Ever. IMO.

As a business model for unpublished authors? Maybe.

But as a integral part of my life, sorry, no sale.

So can you blame me for not wanting this new "revolution" to take that away?

IMO, some things in life are definitely not better boiled down to digital data and crammed into an electronic device.

-jt

Moses Siregar III said...

Someone correct me and tell me what I'm missing here, but wouldn't you be able to make so much more money with Lightning Source using the 20% short discount vs CreateSpace? Joe, you wouldn't be making $1.25 per POD book, it would be, I'm guessing, something like three times that. It's the difference between 60% of list (CreateSpace) and 80% of list (LSI). You're losing out on 20% of your list price per book sold.

Unless you want to be in brick and mortar bookstores, the cost comparison is dramatically in Lightning Source's favor.

Laura Resnick said...

Apparently I'm invisible. (NOT my usual problem, so this is something of a novelty for me.)

Er, folks, -I'm- an established midlist author, and -I've- weighed in on this topic, right here, on Sunday, in a fairly long post... followed the next day by a number of posts wondering why no established midlist writers ever weigh in on this subject here.

Okay, maybe you didn't have the faintest idea that I'm an established pro. One of the regular experiences of a midlister who's been writing as a full-time self-supporting living for years is encountering people who have never heard of her. No problem. Short version: I've written over 20 books in two genres for various major houses, as well as a couple of small presses.

However, if a professional novelist posting here is unusual, it's because (with no offense intended to Joe Konrath) working professional writers have many other things to do with their time. Such as discussing digital publishing with =other= established professionals. I, for one, also spend time discussing the future of publishing and the transition to a more digital-based market with, you know, my PUBLISHER. Established writers also spend a lot of time discussing with each other things like professional publishing, the market, the Google Settlement, sales figures, advance levels, prints runs, agent issues, production problems, scheduling, subrights, etc., etc. Digital publishing is one of =many= issues a pro deals with in a professional career, not THE issue we deal with.

We also spend a lot of time--oh, you know--WRITING. And running our careers (a professional writing career involves doing a lot of business, paperwork, and logistical tasks, as well as writing more-than-full-time).

IOW, we're kind of busy.

Moreover, many established professionals are busy opining on their OWN blogs rather than on Joe's. (I don't blog and my real life has been substantially curtailed for a little while due to a foot injury, so here I am.) And many established pros are indeed discussing digital publishing on their blogs. Many more are discussing it on private e-lists, in private emails, in discussion groups at cons, and at coffee with their writer friends. There are a LOT of things we discuss (and, indeed, even talk to death) that we just don't discuss in front of, oh, the whole World Wide Web.


I'm also baffled by the claim I see here that the media isn't paying any attention to the digital publishing revolution. On the contrary. I read about it regularly in various media, and particularly in PW, GalleyCat, and other publishing-focused media, but also in more general media such as Salon.com, the Village Voice, the NYT, Vanity Fair, etc.

Cyndy Salzmann said...

Three words: I love you!

Linda Acaster said...

@ Michelle (the reader)

I'm with you on not purchasing ebooks that give no clue to their length. This not being universally given in blurbs has been the biggest surprise to me as an indie author. It's not that I'll feel done if I find a 99 cents is only a short story, or a $2.99 a novella, its the investment of anticipation, and I can well understand your frustration. When I buy a shirt I look to see if it has short or long sleeves *before* I purchase it.

If I pull down a sample ebook and it reads as if its going to be a novel, I'm not going to be happy if it wraps up in a shorter time than I anticipated. Even if it's been a good read, when I return to the author's page, I'll automatically categorise all their other ebooks by this one's length. And to chime in about page numbers/percentages, percentages won't help here.

So anyone looking at my book page on Amazon will see in the Product Description just what wordcount is being offered, and - thanks to Joe's suggestion - also the wordcount of the cross-promoted sample of another book included at the back. It's no hassle to do.

Linda Acaster said...

Joe: It's morning here in the UK. This post has made Book2Book, the Book Trade News across here. So who's not listening?

Sarah Duncan said...

Hi Joe

I'm a UK mid-list author published by one of the big 6 here and in the US (and other places) and I'm certainly not angry about e-books or think it's a way to let "indies" through the back door (BTW what's with this indie thing, aren't we all just writers?).

I've got two issues around ebooks. Firstly, I don't want to design the cover, choose the typeface, devise a marketing plan, handle invoices, chase retailers, do PR, and I don't want to research and then brief other people to do it for me. I want to write books, I don't want to run a business.

Secondly, I can see that if you can write a book in 6 weeks (and I am seriously impressed by those who can) then it makes the numbers work in the author's favour. If you can keep the books coming then the marketing picks up momentum. But it takes me a good year to write a novel. This may make me a slacker but that's how my creativity works.

The way I see it, epublishing works really well for those who actually like the business side and want to be entrepreneurs as well as writers, and it favours those who write fast and in genres where the story telling is rated more highly than the literary style.

That doesn't make me wrong, just different as a person, different as a writer.

jtplayer said...

Re: "it's because (with no offense intended to Joe Konrath) working professional writers have many other things to do with their time."


Thanks for that Laura. I had no idea. Really.


Re: "I, for one, also spend time discussing the future of publishing and the transition to a more digital-based market with, you know, my PUBLISHER."


Wow, another good one.


Re: "We also spend a lot of time--oh, you know--WRITING."


Three in a row baby! Keep 'em coming.


Re: "IOW, we're kind of busy."


And there you have it...grand slam for Laura.

I know...kinda snarky, but for crying out loud man, that whole post was a little backhanded...twice.

-jt

(otherwise known as the amateur with plenty of time on his hands)

Derek said...

Congratulations on your successes. The only things that matter as a working writer are having readers and earning a living.

Derek
www.alongthewritelines.blogspot.com

John McCarthy said...

Way to go Joe,
Stir the pot beyond boiling. It's a great way to get people thinking :)
I was sitting at my favorite Borders cafe reading from an iPad a novel that's hard to find in book form. One of the employees and I struck up a conversation about the future of publishing. Interestingly, neither of us considered that access to good writing would end. Rather, it was how stores like Borders would either reinvent themselves to cater to their clients needs for a place to read, drink, and download more books.
Personally, I'll continue to collect my favorite authors if their books are in print. But I see that continuing in the future, even if that means electronic archiving. Guess we'll see.
Keep stirring, Chef K

jtplayer said...

Re: "Rather, it was how stores like Borders would either reinvent themselves to cater to their clients needs for a place to read, drink, and download more books."

Hey John, they already have places like that, they're called coffee houses.

And right now Borders is teetering on the edge. I seriously doubt that type of reinvention is going to help.

Nobody said access is going to end, in fact, IMO, that's the whole appeal with ebooks (for authors that is).

It's all about accessibility, and right now, there's never been a better time to be an independent writer.

In my mind though, there's a big downside looming, and the lure of making money is blinding some to the potential fallout.

-jt

Anonymous said...

This is "A Newbie's Guide to Publishing," a name that implies that this site is here to dispense advice on how to get published. The author of this site JA Konrath also has a book by the same name. A book that purports to be THE advice book for aspiring professional writers.

JA Konrath's own career path has recently changed. He's now self-publishing his books on Kindle and Createspace (POD). And he has them posted on his site. But when a writer asked if this is what aspiring authors with talent should do, he can't answer:

"I can't give advice on this. Everyone needs to set their own goals and follow their own paths. All mileage varies."

Where's the newbie's guide now?

John McCarthy said...

Hi JT

By response is too long for the comment forum, so here's part one. btw, thanks for your thoughts, I enjoyed reflecting on the good pts stated.

Pt. 1

I agree with you that the change is going to be painful for people with jobs in the traditional field of publishing and selling. There will be more slush published that readers will need to find their way through. I hope there will remain a place for having a book in my hands. None of us can predict what the future will actually be.

What I do know is that 12 years ago concern was raised, and continues to exist, that the Internet was a form of mob rule where anyone could (and do) publish. Skills to decipher what is accurate versus opinion is a valued set. What I find interesting is that while that has occurred, and sound research and critical thinking skills are needed, mechanisms are developed and tested to help the process. It began with User reviews. Then people could rate and review the reviews of other users.

Heck, even our discussion, while stimulating, is a great example of the checks and challenge to thinking that can occur.

If authors can figure out the next level beyond what JA has accomplished, that will be the guide to success. JA benefits from being a pioneer and master at marketing his brand. Those tools will be needed as the book world opens the flood gates.

John McCarthy said...

Hi JT,

Here's pt. 2. Thanks again :)


Coffee shops are nice places, I have a couple of haunts myself. I go to my local Borders cafe because I know the employees there by name, and they've taken the time to know mine...course that probably means I drink too much there.

What I found from my conversation with the employer is that bookstores, or at least this store, are having dialog about the potential shift by customers, and asking the question, "How do we stay relevant?"

If bookstores do not find a satisfactory answer for their customers will cease to exist or at best make major cuts to survive. JA's success in the e-world demonstrates that necessity.

At the particular store I referenced, they actively sell all models of e-readers and have launched their own e-store. The staff have access to the various readers, and are expected to be able to answer questions of customers interested in an e-Reader.

Here's the important distinction between cafes and cafes attached to a bookstore...
When I go to a cafe that's part of a bookstore, I can have these kinds of conversations, most especially about books and publishing with people who share a common interest. In my favorite cafes that do not have a connected bookstore, the environment, while positive, is not one where I can "expect" the staff to share this common interest.

Joe Konrath said...

A book that purports to be THE advice book for aspiring professional writers.

I purport to reveal information every writer needs to know. I've always been reluctant to tell writers what to do when it comes to their careers.

Giving anonymous, one-size-fits-all career advice is dangerous at best, downright stupid at worst. Every writer is unique, and has different skill sets and goals.

Some advice, like "all writers should have a website" is universal. So is "start your story with a hook."

In the past I said "don't self-publish" because I saw it to be extremely harmful.

It is less harmful now. But that doesn't mean I'm going to advise writers to abandon their agent search and throw their stuff up on Kindle. I shouldn't have that power.

There's more than enough information out there for new writers to make an informed decision on what career path to follow. If you need me to say "Do A not B" then nothing I say could help you.

Joe Konrath said...

I, for one, also spend time discussing the future of publishing and the transition to a more digital-based market with, you know, my PUBLISHER.

I've tried this. They are either so bull-headed they refuse to listen, or too clueless to understand what's happening.

I haven't seen any major publisher mount a successful, ongoing ebook campaign. They're like scaredy-cats who dip a toe into the pool for two seconds, then run away. Then they wade in up to their ankles, then run away again.

Jump in already. The water is fine.

jtplayer said...

All valid points John.

It's too bad there can't be a middle ground that allows for better access to traditional print publishing, thereby keeping bookstores viable, while growing epublishing as an alternate for those who prefer the format.

It feels to me like it's an either/or proposition, and the march of progress will inevitably wipe out books as we know them.

From a business perspective for new and independent authors, the lure is undeniable, which is the reason I'm actively exploring it for myself.

-jt

Joe Konrath said...

I believe some bookstores can remain viable. Used bookstores will certainly continue to exist. There are simply too many books out there.

This was done a few years ago, and is oddly precedent.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vBb3_aZN7g

Zoe Winters said...

@Moses, my profit margin for a book through LSI at the 20% short discount is $5.58 per book.

I definitely think it's a better set-up than CreateSpace, but CreateSpace is easier for a lot of people to deal with, and with LSI you have to buy a block of ISBNs. Not everyone wants to do that.

Selena Kitt said...

"It absolutely IS possible for a new author to make money using POD-- without a doubt, absolutely, verifiably, you can."

Yes, it is.

With fiction.

I make, on average, about $100 a day on CreateSpace from my POD books.

Granted, at $10,000 a month on Kindle, it's not the same animal. But it isn't chump change.

It's $36,000 a year. No, not chump change at all. And it's about 30% of my Kindle sales.

Joe Konrath said...

I know a few erotica authors making a lot of $$$ self-pubbing. Dunno any other genre that does as well.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I've ever seen this many comments on a blog! And so much snarking. LOL. I found Joe through Zoe's blog, started reading the books, and immediately had another favorite author. I think Joe is right on target about indie publishing. I think ebooks are the future and authors need to start thinking about it. I've done better than I ever thought I would publishing on Amazon. Thanks, Joe, for all the information you give to indies.

Selena Kitt said...

"I know a few erotica authors making a lot of $$$ self-pubbing. Dunno any other genre that does as well."


Mystery and horror seem to run a close second. ;)

Zoe Winters said...

From my experience, romance, especially paranormal romance seems to do pretty well, also. I think a big part of that is that there are just SO many paranormal romance readers with book review blogs. It's astounding how big the community of romance reviewers is.

Also, not just me but others like Linda Hilburn, Amanda Hocking, J. R. Rain... all seem to do well on Kindle. And I'm sure there are many others, those are just the ones I run into all the time on Amazon.

Silversongbird said...

I know that the US market is more open to certain things than the UK one. I've written a cross-genre alternate history detective fantasy. Sounds a complete mess, doesn't it? However, with 2 self-pubs under my belt and 3 more written, I know it's good enough to attract a good readership, but no UK agent/publisher would look at it. Which is why I am going to try my luck in the US of A. Fingers crossed.

Ty Johnston said...

Ya know, one thing that has struck me is that once one of the big publishers settles into a viable business model for digital publishing (which I'm guessing will take anywhere from 6 months to 5 years, totally ballparking it), and then the other publishers jump on board, most of the folks who are bemoaning "the death of print" (which isn't going to happen completely anyway), will be jumping on the bandwagon.

There'll be article after article about how great the new digital revolution is. There'll be executives at public events touting the new e-books. There'll be blog posts galore by agents and publishing industry staff, just grinning away at this new thing they've discovered.

I've seen it happen in half a dozen other industries over the last couple of decades. It'll happen again.

Publishing shouldn't be an either-or thing, for the readers nor as a business model. Both print and digital should be working together, not at odds with one another. Those who love actual printed books (and I'm one of them) should be much less concerned about the indie authors out there and more concerned about what the big publishers are eventually going to do.

Because that's when the tidal wave is really going to hit.

Anonymous said...

Ty, yours is the last post standing so you win! Congratulations! Honorable mention goes out to the runners up, JR and Zoe.

Brad R. Torgersen said...

I think some degree of concern is valid, because for the last 30 years you could generally rely on the idea that fiction which was self-published was fiction which didn't have what it took to stand up in a professional-level market. It was stuff written by people who were either impatient and trying to take a shortcut around the first million words they owed to their development, or they were simply unsuited to writing -- but wanted to be authors anyway.

In simpler terms, the self-published books stank.

These days, I think there are still tons of people rushing into e-print and even paper self-pub without realizing it's too soon, or they're just not cut out for it. But I do applaud the broadening of opportunities for writers who have put in the miles on their development and are merely roadblocked due to the dysfunctional agent-to-editor model, and the vagueness of NY house politics. How many good or even great books get shitcanned in New York because someone in-house killed the deal somewhere along the way? For reasons that might not even be related to the book's quality?

Writers now have an additional avenue -- a legit avenue, by God -- which they can take when marketing their work. And though I do still fear that we've not yet developed a sufficient filter that will allow readers to successfully parse the self-published universe, I think this probably helps the fiction world overall because more types and kinds of fiction can be developed by more writers -- and consumed by more consumers -- without necessarily passing beneath the myopic eye of the House in the Big Apple.

And as Larry Correia might say, sometimes self pub is exactly what has to happen in order for an independent writer to drum up the numbers to attract House attention. I am sure he's happy as a clam being "traditional" now, but he couldn't get ANY attention his first run through the traditional model.

Ultimately, I'd like to see the big New York publishing establishment slowly herded back towards reading its own slush. Hire back those editors. Put some money and effort into examining what's being offered. Hell, routinely surf the e-book world and see who is hot, and offer those people deals? If they're selling tons on their own, obviously they're doing something right. Bring them onboard and reap the benefits.

Selena Kitt said...

"...without necessarily passing beneath the myopic eye of the House in the Big Apple."

No, now they have to pass the censoring eyes of Apple. ;)

Speaking of which - Joe, why all the eggs in one basket? You talk mostly about Kindle sales, but are you distributing yourself on Apple? Barnes and Noble? Kobo (Borders)?

"...routinely surf the e-book world and see who is hot, and offer those people deals? If they're selling tons on their own, obviously they're doing something right. Bring them onboard and reap the benefits."

But why would an author sell (out) to a NY House if they could make more money doing it on their own? I don't know if it makes fiscal sense for Joe (or me - not that anyone's knocking at my door - but then again, like I said... so?) to move from what we're doing to another model. At least, not now, not with the current avenues open.

Now, those avenues may close in the future. Kindle and B&N and Borders and Apple (and soon, Google) are all trying to build up as many books as they can. They know folks are looking for cheaper books, so those self-pubbed authors are valuable right now.

When the big boys DO get their acts together (and they will) the doors may close to self-pubbing authors. Or they may get squeezed out once price points settle.

Only time will tell. In the meantime, if you're making money doing this, invest it wisely! ;)

Anonymous said...

The test will be whether someone can have lasting success with ebooks without first going through a traditinal publisher, as you did. This isn't an ideological issue, it's a practical one.

Shelley said...

Dear Joe,

This is my first time here, thanks. I'm not sure what you're doing would fit with my work--Horton Foote was supportive of it and his society just built me a website for it--but I know the publishing houses aren't working for me.

What's the first step?

jaebi said...

This is the newest and most exciting (for me as an author) type of paradigm shift. The publishing industry, much like the music industry, and politics, will be enriched by the future of publishing media. More options, more variety, better consumer awareness-there's nothing but good to come of it.

Except for people losing their jobs and feeling like dinosaurs. But if they're thick skinned and continue to find their passions, i'm sure these folks will be just fine.

jae

Georgia McBride said...

Joe--

Been watching your progress for quite some time now. Been reading posts on FB as well. I truly don't understand why you feel the need to defend yourself or your sales to anyone.

I'm certain those that you inspire appreciate your candor. But you've gone above and beyond as far as that goes. You've been a teacher, mentor, leader and friend to so many who needed to hear what you have to say.

At this point in your life and career--the focus should remain on the work. No one can take that from you.

As it was in the music business, of which I was a part for many years. The same fear, anger and panic over new technology (iTunes) killing the CD. In the same way that unsigned artists go out and try to build an audience for their must via touring and sell their music online via iTunes alongside the bestsellers--so their music might be underproduced or not as polished as a big star. Maybe they can't afford highly stylized photos or a album book cover--same as writers in the book biz.

Writers can publish their eBooks and build their audiences much in the same way. When I was in the music biz as a manager and needed to get a band signed with a major label, the label wanted to know how many records the band sold on their own already. So, you had to go out and sell your own stuff before they would even consider signing you/giving you a deal. In the book biz, we're just supposed to guess that there might be a market for a particular work and NOT put books into the consumer's hands first?

But I digress.

What I started to say was this. Joe--keep doing what you're doing and stop worrying what people think or say. Just do you!

I goy your back.

Cheers-
Georgia McBride

Laurel L. Russwurm said...

I'm an author and I'm with you.

I'm just finishing up my novel (re-proofing the proof as it were) and am going to self publish. It never even crossed my mind to go with the mainstream publishing market.

Not that I doubt for a moment that I could have gotten a publishing deal (well, I before being outspoken about copyright law anyway :)

Mainstream publishers seem to be serving their own needs at the expense of both authors and audience. It was actually that whole sordid attempt to scoop ebook rights by default that put the final nail in any niggling thoughts that that might be the way to go.

BTW, an outlier is a good thing to be. Keep doing what you're doing, Joe.

Neil Crabtree said...

A friend from MWA told me about your blog, and it's as good as he said. When I started college in 1968, there was no Creative Writing program at Va. Commonwealth University. Now there's a good one, with scholarship programs sponsored by David Baldacci. Look at Poets&Writers magazine, and you see nearly every college and university has an MFA program. Yet at a time when America is producing more trained writers than ever before, it's more difficult to get an agent than ever, and as Boyd Morrison discussed in your blog in May, even with a good agent like Irene Goodman, it's damn hard to get a contract. This has to be terribly discouraging not only to writers but to all the Gen Y graduates who busted their butts for years. Ebooks are a way to by-pass the bottleneck in NYC and let good books find their own market. Last year there was a CNN report on the best selling novel in Japan had been written by texting from a mobile device. I think that's great. Let the kids find their own heroes. I love the fact that more people are reading than ever before, despite all the crap we hear about the death of the novel or illiterate game players or publishers going broke. Keep up the good work, letting creative people know there are alternatives
to the New York minute.

Laurel L. Russwurm said...

Now that I've squeezed the time (out of the sleeping part of my writer's day) I've actually gotten all the way through all the comments here. Because I've not yet launched my first self-published book yet I can't speak to that market, although I am ecstatic at the physical quality of my CreateSpace POD proof, easily the equivalent of any mainstream trade paperback I've held in my hands. (Possibly better as it's holding up to the gruelling physical demands of my "re-proof".)

Although it's growing, the ebook market has a downside. First: dead Tree vs. Plastic... well hell, dead tree books are recyclable. Electronics? Not easily. Not sure about e-readers, but a many electronics are considered "hazardous waste". Plastic takes a very long time to break down, while books made of paper have a lot going for them.

When I was in highschool I lost my brother's expensive copy of "Lord of the Rings" in the cafeteria and had to replace it. That was bad, but nothing on the cost of replacing a full Kindle. A while back the math was that a full ebook reader in Canada with the books priced at $10. a pop was equivalent to an all inclusive year of university. I realize prices have dropped, but it is still a big investment.

Having grown up with books I can't see ebooks replacing paper books as long as DRM is the norm. Paper books are portable not only for size but for replacement cost. Books made of paper will not only physically last your lifetime but you can pass them on to your kids.

You might accidentally leave a book out in the rain, but drop your e-reader in the pool and you've not just lost the book you were reading, you've lost your entire library. Until we can back-up and format shift ebooks, $2.99 is too much to pay for an ebook that will if my ebook reader breaks or becomes obsolete.

As demonstrated with by the apocryphal Kindle 1984 story, if Amazon can reach into the Kindle you own and remove not only the ebook you've purchased but the digital notes you've made on it (which by rights should themselves be covered by your copyright) there are some questions of ownership that need to be considered by us all, not merely dictated by special interests.

That said, if DRM was removed from e-readers they would be unbeatable, because like everything else digital they will cost next to nothing to distribute. I think is a boon to the arts. Opening up the market wider can only be good for us all.

Laurel L. Russwurm said...

Now that I've squeezed the time (out of the sleeping part of my writer's day) I've actually gotten all the way through all the comments. Because I haven't launched my first self-pub book yet I can't speak to that market, although I am ecstatic at the physical quality of my CreateSpace POD proof, easily the equivalent of any mainstream trade paperback I've held in my hands. (And possibly better as it's holding up to the gruelling physical demands of my "re-proof".)

Little has been said about the ebook downside.

(1) dead Tree vs. Plastic... well hell, dead tree books are recyclable. Electronics? Not easily. I don't know about e-readers, many electronics are considered "hazardous waste". Plastic takes long to break down. Not books.

When I was in highschool I lost my brother's expensive copy of "Lord of the Rings" in the cafeteria and had to replace it. That was bad, but nothing on the cost of replacing a full Kindle. Not long ago the math said a full ebook reader in Canada with books priced at $10. a pop was equivalent to all inclusive year of university. I know the prices have dropped, but it's still a substantial investment.

Having grown up with books I can't see ebooks replacing paper books as long as DRM is the norm. Paper books are portable not only for size but for replacement cost. Books made of paper will not only physically last your lifetime but you can pass them on to your kids.

You might accidentally leave a book out in the rain, but drop your e-reader in the pool and you've not just lost the book you were reading, you've lost your entire library. Until we can back-up and format shift ebooks, $2.99 is too much to pay for an ebook that will if my ebook reader breaks or becomes obsolete.

As demonstrated with by the apocryphal Kindle 1984 story, if Amazon can reach into the Kindle you own and remove not only the ebook you've purchased but the digital notes you've made on it (which by rights should themselves be covered by copyright) there are some questions of ownership that need to be considered by us all, not merely dictated by special interests.

That said, if DRM is removed from e-readers they would be unbeatable, because like everything else digital they will cost next to nothing to distribute. Which I think is a boon to the arts. Opening up the market wider can only be good for both society and art.

Laurel L. Russwurm said...

Little has been said about the ebook downside.

(1) dead Tree vs. Plastic... well hell, dead tree books are recyclable. Electronics? Not easily. I don't know about e-readers, many electronics are considered "hazardous waste". Plastic takes long to break down. Not books.

When I was iyoung I lost my brother's expensive copy of "Lord of the Rings" in the cafeteria and had to replace it. That was bad, but nothing on the cost of replacing a full Kindle. Not long ago the math said a full ebook reader in Canada cost the equivalent to all inclusive year of university. Prices have dropped, but...

Having grown up with books I can't see ebooks replacing paper books as long as DRM is the norm. Paper books are portable not only for size but for replacement cost. Books made of paper will not only physically last your lifetime but you can pass them on to your kids.

You might accidentally leave a book out in the rain, but drop your e-reader in the pool and you've not just lost the book you were reading, you've lost your entire library. Until we can back-up and format shift ebooks, $2.99 is too much to pay for an ebook that will if my ebook reader breaks or becomes obsolete.

As demonstrated with by the apocryphal Kindle 1984 story, if Amazon can reach into the Kindle you own and remove not only the ebook you've purchased but the digital notes you've made on it (which by rights should themselves be covered by copyright) there are some questions of ownership that need to be considered by us all, not merely dictated by special interests.

That said, if DRM is removed from e-readers they would be unbeatable, because like everything else digital they will cost next to nothing to distribute. Which I think is a boon to the arts. Opening up the market wider can only be good for both society and art.

Laurel L. Russwurm said...

Joe: yikes... :( apologies for multi-posting; I kept getting a "URI is too long error" so i edited... seems they all posted. I'd be thrilled if you nuked 2 out of three

Anonymous said...

You're my hero. You've stated the reality. Thanks, and keep writing the truth.

Dave W said...

Joe: you said "I will be at Bouchercon, but I'm not signing up for any panels. "

On behalf of panel attendees everywhere, can I just say 'thank fuck'

Sydney said...

I haven't minded reading most of what you said thus far, but one line has needled me. I think it has been far too long since you've been a part of the majority 'fluff' you're dismissing in a blithe statement about job cuts. While change brings about richness to some, it brings about poverty to others, something that is deserving of far more than a dismissive sentence in a self-righteous rant.

I am glad you have been able to succeed so much and change my views of a market I hadn't thought much of, while also giving me more hope as an aspiring author. But seeing as the main thing keeping me housed and fed in this atrocious market is my job as a bookseller, fuck you.

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